Stimson, Andrew, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Sattareh Farman Farmaian, 90, a daughter of Persian royalty and catalyst for the social work field in Iran, died May 21 at her home in Los Angeles. She was one of 36 children born to a prominent prince in the Qajar dynasty that ruled Iran for more than a century. Shortly before her birth Reza Khan staged a coup d'état, sending the head of the Qajari dynasty into exile, though Farmaian's family remained in Tehran and continued to be influential in Iranian society. After attending the American School for Girls in Tehran, Farmaian became the first Iranian to attend the University of Southern California, where in 1948 she earned a master's degree in social work. For the next decade, Farmaian worked as a social worker in Los Angeles and served as a social welfare consultant for a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) mission in Iraq.
In 1958 she returned to Iran and established the Tehran School of Social Work, the first of its kind in the country. While serving as the school's director, she also helped found the Family Planning Association of Iran, an organization focused on educating young women on the use of family planning and birth control in accordance with Islamic law. These and a number of other organizations and centers started by Farmaian helped a large variety of Iranians, from orphans and medical patients to prostitutes. During the 1970s she served as a board member of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and as vice president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Farmaian was forced to leave Iran during the 1979 revolution after narrowly escaping execution. While many of her institutions were closed, most of their social work missions continue in Iran today. Farmaian returned to the United States and resumed working with disadvantaged groups in Los Angeles. The author of several books, Farmaian penned her acclaimed autobiography Daughter of Persia in 2006 and was the recipient of a number of awards for her achievements and commitment to social work. …